Friday, July 22, 2011


As the man rode away, his mind arace with the thoughts of a job undone, it began to rain with the fury of the end of the world. Torrents of water fell from the opened sky, muddying the sand and giving the wind a biting chill. The way ahead was blurred out from reality, woold pulled over the man's eyes as he trotted back to Galveston through the storm. A heavy thundering and a ligthing bolt struck a nearby tree, sending it up in flames. The man stopped for a moment and watched as the tree burned and slowly died, the fire consumed by the rain from the storm that bore it. From the bough of it the man could see a man hanging, blowing in the wind, his body charred now, wet and useless.
The man rode over to the tree, smoking and steaming now from the dead fire, and looked up at the hanging man. His face was bloated and strange, unearthly in the storm's haze, part burned off by the fire. It struck the man that he had not noticed this corpse before as he rode in and wondered from whence this man had come. He looked around and saw now horse meandering across the desert openness by itself, though to say so was foolishness as the man could hardly see ten feet in front of him now for the rain.
Droplets hung fast and soon fell from the brim of his hat, mingling with the water and endless sands of the desert. Looking up at the hanged man once more, the man moved forward and took out his bowie knife. Supporting himself from the trunk of the tree and hanging onto the hanged man's bough, the man set about cutting him down. It did not take long, though longer than normal for the wet rope, and the hanged man fell to the ground with a sucking, wet thud. The man climbed down from the lightning-struck tree and stood over the corpse. He got on his knees and dug feverishly in the wet sand like a mad man.
Grime stuck to his nails, coarse sand scraping at the layers of his skin. Water pooled in the hole and around him. He could feel the wind's chill in his bones and his skin was like brittle ice. For hours he dug, there, on his hands on knees until he had himself a large enough hole for a body. None too deep to be sure as a result of the poor conditions and lack of tools, but still a grave. Taking the hanged man by under his armpits, the man dragged the body into the grave and covered him over again with the muddy sand. He stood, then, and stared at the new grave, the final resting place of this hanged man without a name. Sand stuck to his hands, his kness, his clothes. His breathing was heavy and his eyes deranged. His heart beat heavily in his chest.
"We all die sometime," the man said and as he did he realized he said it not only for the hanged man but for himself and the American and the Mexicans he'd killed and the rabbi and the preacher and all the other people in this world he continued about with no semblence of meaning in their lives other than the loss of it all.
Reaching up, the man snapped off a large enough branch from the hanged man's bough and stuck it at the head of the grave. He hoped someone would come along and mayhaps see it and dig it up and bury the man in a proper place with a proper grave and stone, even without his proper name.
After standing there for some minutes in the soaking rain under the tree, the man remounted his horse and left again for the horizon and on towards Galveston.
The rain did not let up for the days, weeks, it took the man to traverse the open plains again, back the way he'd come. Going back was slower than leaving because now he was in no hurry. Time faded in and out and the man barely noticed. The world barely noticed at all. When finally he reached the city limits, or what he knew to be the city limits, there was nothing at all beyond them. Piles of wood and nails and bodies lay across the way where Galveston had been, empty and flat where one a town had thrived and stood tall. Wiped clean was the slate of this place, free to start again anew, better.
The man smiled and let out a gruff, low chuckle. He did not bother to look around for signs of his employer or anyone he knew, in his mind he knew the sea and wind had taken them all from this place and the earth was cleaner without them. So, with nothing else to do, he got back on his horse and, this time, moved north.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


"He's gone," the guard said to Bennet.
"What in the hell do you mean he's gone?" Bennet got up from his cover and peered over the top of the wall. He could only just make out a small figure becoming nothing but a shadow in the distance. "What in god's name?"
"I don't know," the guard said. "He just up and left when you told 'em you knowed his brother."
"You did know him, right?" Lester said. "That wasn't just a bunch of lies?"
"It weren't," Bennet sat down, his eyes wandered off into nothing. "I knew him. Good fella, lively."
"Jesus," Lester had a look over the top of the wall, too. He could scarcely believe it. "I thought we were in for one hell of a gun fight."
"You and me both," Bennet said. "It don't make no sense. He followed me all the way across the open desert, fired on me and missed and finally catches up with me here and then just up and heads out the first minute he hears I knew his brother. Somethin's wrong."
"I do not know, Bennet," Lester said. "Maybe you just up and got lucky."
"Nah," Bennet said. "I ain't that lucky."

The man turned around and stared at the city behind him. He considered the fact that he was returning to his employer with the job half done. Weighing his rifle in his hands, he figured he'd let fate handle it.
"Fate led you and my brother together," the man said, hoisting his rifle up to his chin. "Then fate will make sure you don't die with this bullet."
Looking down the barrel of the gun, he knew he'd be lucky if he hit anything at all. The wind was heavy from the east so he adjusted himself and aimed for the small parapet. For all he knew, he was speaking to the American. Breathing slowly and evenly, he counted to three and fired, the crack of the shot echoing into nothing.

The guard's head exploded in a red mist before they heard the shot.
"Jesus Christ!" Bennet yelled. "Get the hell down!"
The guard's dead body slumped over and fell to the dirt road below, blood staining the cream-coloured sand. Bennet leaned over the top with Lester and fired off a few rounds into the ether and hid again.
After a moment Bennet picked himself up and peered over the top to see the man approaching slowly on his horse. Bennet took aim with his rifle and was about to fire when he heard the man speak.
"Did I kill ye?" the man said. "The forger?"
"Ye did not," Bennet said. "You killed the guard. The man you spoke with before."
"I see," the man paused for what seemed some time. "Well, fate has led it for me not to kill you."
"It has?"
"Indeed. If it wanted you dead, I'd have killed you just now and you wouldn't have known my brother."
"I could kill you right now," Bennet said. His teeth were clenched tight and his jaw hurt. "I got you right in my sights and you know I'm a pretty crack shot."
"I don't doubt it," the man said. "And if it were to be so you would have done it already without listening to my damn voice."
Bennet said nothing.
"I'll take your silence as agreement and I'll be on my way."
"Aye," Bennet said. "And stay gone this time, for if ye come back I might not hesitate to take that shot."
"I don't doubt it."
And then the man was gone, again, riding off towards the horizon. Bennet let out the breath he hadn't realized he was holding and slumped over against the wall, some of the guards blood dripping down the opposite wall in a river pattern, stretching across the world like spindly fingers.
Bennet did not speak for the rest of that day and instead went with Lester and Kuruk to the tavern and drank and ate his fill before going straight to bed after the other decided that whores were on their menu. His dreams were black and empty, plagued with thoughts of where he should go now that he was not being chased, and what he should do now that he was free.

Friday, July 15, 2011


Nothing moved in that eternal silence of the moment. No birds cawed, coyotes didn't cry, the wind had stopped blowing for what seemed longer than possible. The sand was still for the first time in days. The man weighed his options against his opponents, to which he was severely out-gunned. He had two pistols, a Winchester repeater and the old Civil War pistol he'd taken from the Mexican, which was probably no good.
"How many of you are there?" he shouted.
"More'n you," came the guard's voice. "And definitely more guns."
He considered, for a moment, why he was even doing this. Surely, he had been paid, that much was true. Or was to be paid once the job was done, but surely he could return to his employer with news of the American's death, along with the in-actuality dead Mexicans, and he would be paid. His employer would be none the wiser, right? Why should he risk his skin on a man he could pretend was dead and would likely not commit forgery again?
He reached over from his cover and fired once at the compound. A barrage of bullets whizzed past, thudding into the rock and peppering the sand. Surely, he would run out of bullets before them and would never make it in a siege of any kind. Truly, his options were poor.
"Is there anything I can give you," the man said. "That will let me take the American and leave with my life?"
A pause. Well, at least they were considering it.
"Most likely not," the guard called back. "He's explained hisself and I'm satisfied with it."
"I have gold," the man shouted. "And other valuables."
"No gold in the world would make me give up this man."
"Why do you protect him so?" the man asked. "Is he a brother of yours?"
"Other than bein' a white American, we ain't brothers," the guard said. "But he has explained his post to me and the reason you pursue him so is firvolous and bastardly."
"Is it?"
"It is."
"Care," the man said, shifting his position slightly, "to explain that to me."
"You want this man on a charge a forgin' American monnies, correct?"
"Did you consider," the guard said, never taking his eyes from out of his rifle-sights, "the reasons for his doing so?"
The man had to admit that he had not and he said as much.
"Aren't you some kinda law?" the guard asked.
"In a way, of a sorts," the man said. "I have been paid to kill this man. I generally ask no questions."
"Well, it may benefit you to do so," the guard said. "For this man was forgin' monnies under duress, as payment to Mexican gangs for not bein' killed. Though he did run into these gangs desertin' the USS Maine, there is still some to be considered in all this."
The man, for a time, did not speak. He weighed this; the man he pursued so diligently had made falsified funds to be spend in American towns, that much was true. He had deserted the USS Maine.
"He would not have fallen into the forgin' trade," the man said. "Without first deserting the army."
"I suppose," the guard shifted. His legs grew tired. "But men have done worse when scared."
The man said nothing.
"You there still?" The guard asked.
"I lost a brother on that boat," the man said. "Younger. Died in the explosion."
Back behind the walls, the guard turned to Bennet and they exchanged a troubled glance. Bennet spoke up first.
"What was his name?" he said. "I mighta known him."
"Jacob," the man said from behind his rock. "Jacob Digby Noonan."
"Aye," Bennet said. "I knew him. Kinda shortish, quick sense a humour."
"That's him."
"He was in front a me in line just before I lost my guts."
The man was silent.
"I offered him to come, but he said he felt like serving in this mission was his destiny," Bennet paused, sighed. "Said that it was something he was meant to do."
"Sounds like him."
And without a word, the man got back on his horse and road back the way he'd come.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


After sleep left them with dust in their eyes and a hunger for the leftover coyote meat, the three men set off for the last leg of the trip up and over the rocky hills and to the town beyond. Bennet had had enough of horses and dust and sleeping under the stars, he missed a mattress and a roof and a fire without the wind to his back. He wanted back inside, at the very least, an adobe house.
In no time at all they reached the base of the rocky hills.
"It ain't gonna be easy gettin' them horses over the hills," Bennet said, looking back at the horses they'd taken from the dead Sioux. "Them bastards look a sight stubbourn if'n you ask me."
"I find it hard to argue with that," Lester tugged on the horses' reins. "As they are already deciding they don't want to traverse this particular path."
"We'll make them," Bennet said. "Whether they like it or not."
"It is best," Kuruk said, "with stubbourn horses to treat them with kindness. Then they will do what you wish. Otherwise, they will be nothing but a hindrance."
"Kindess?" Bennet turned to the Apache. "How?"
Kuruk leaned over and took the reins from Lester and tugged on them lightly, shaking them front side to side. He began whispering to them and then clicked with his tongue, pulling out an apple from his saddlebag.
"He had apples all this time?" Bennet asked.
"Must have been saving them for the horses, knowin' we'd have some trouble." Lester said.
"I'd have killed a man for a goddamn apple I was so hungry."
"It's best you didn't, though, it would appear."
Slowly and with hesitation the horses began to follow them riders up the steep and rocky slopes and over the hills. Small sections of rock broke off beneath them and hit the ground, but they continued on at a good pace. Bennet looked behind him to check on the horses and his eyes strayed to the horizon. Just there, barely able to be made out, was a figure, a small black rider heading forward in the heat-wave haze.
"Seems someone's comin' up," Bennet said. "Best we get off these hills soon as possible."
"Can you make them out?" Lester said.
"No, not at this distance," Bennet pushed his horse forward. "But I would not hesitate to say that it would be my pursuer finally caught up with me."
"Well, shit."
They pushed the horses hard over the hills, their shoes cracking and snapping on the hard rocks, one horse throwing a shoe and blood trailed after it for its poor, soft foot. It whinnied and cried and pulled back on the reins but Kuruk coaxed it down over the rocks and finally onto the soft sand, though hot, was better than the rocks.
"Now, I think we should run," Lester said. "Because, from what you tell me, I don't want to meet this pursuer of yours."
Bennet nodded and they kicked the horses as fast as they would go, speeding towards the horizon and town and safety.

Behind them, the man made and ascended the rocky hills, bearing down on them like a bullet. He had been riding all night and his horse was slowing, but he kept kicking it to go faster.
"Tick tock," he said aloud. "Tick tock."

Finally, the three riders made it to the town and after quick words exchanged with the gate men, they were let inside and the gates closed.
"Round up your guns!" Lester cried. "A man comes here with blackness and murder in his heart!"
"And a mighty good ability to kill folks." Bennet said.
The guards, solemn, nodded and headed for their weapons and manned the small walls that surrounded the town. Some men, too, came with their weapons while others hid in their homes with the women and children.
"There," Bennet said, pointing not too far off. "Here he comes."
The man came up to the town and slowed and stopped when he saw its gates closed.
"I would like to enter," he said, his words withering in the silent air, nothing to echo from. "Open your gates."
"I'm afraid that ain't likely to happen," a guard said. "For it seems that you got killin' in mind."
"I do," the mn said. "But only for one man. An American. Travelling with two others I think."
The guard looked from Bennet to the man.
"I reckon he might be here," the guard said. "What you be wantin' him for."
"Crimes against these here United States."
"Crimes?" the guard asked. "What crimes?"
"Money forgery and conspiring with anti-state Mexican gangs."
Bennet cringed. The man was good. He knew everything.
"Well," the guard said. "Even if that be true, this man is still entitled to a fair trial, ain't he?"
"My employer don't see it that way."
The guard wiped his nose on his sleeves and then the sweat from his brow. "Then you'll have to come and get him."
"And that I will."
The sun was high and hot and the world stood still. No one moved.

Roller Derby: Pulp Friction

On Saturday July 9th I witnessed an event more awesome than I thought it could be. A sport, funnily enough. I finally understand why people get excited about sport. What I am talking about, of course, is roller derby. Currently, the majority of the leagues are women only, with men taking part as referees or commentators. There are male leagues, but not that many.
The whole thing took place in Homebush at the Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre, and I was surprised at the size of the crowd. I hadn't expected something, that was more or less still an underground event, to have such a turn out.
Rockabilly bands bracketed each bout, starting us off and playing during the breaks. It definitely set the mood for a jumping, jiving time. Clearly, costumes are a huge part of this whole even - and so is a strange, choreographed dancing introductory sequence. Each player has an amusing-come-badass nickname, some of my favourites being Haterade, Feral Streep, Tail-her Swift and Womb Raider.
The first mini bout was the Western Sydney Boutlaws versus the Beauty School Knockouts. From this first game, I could see that the game could be brutal. Elbows shoved into guts, knockdowns, fast roller-skating and everything short of punching and kicking took place on the track. And this bout was slower than a normal bout. This was the Boutlaws' first big bout and the Knockouts were a seasoned team. I didn't know this and backed the Boutlaws because they had the prettiest girls - this was my first roller derby after all, how was I to know?
I should've gone with my instinct during the player show-off period when I saw the Knockouts had far better skaters, but I didn't and the Boutlaws lost 28 to 60-something.
The way I chose sides in the second, main bout - The D'viants versus the Unicorns - wasn't much better - basing it on the quality of the team photograph, the names of the players and the general vibe of the team. The Unicorns were undefeated, the commentators proclaiming so regularly, so naturlly I chose the D'viants. They had the Whip It, underdog kind of feel about the, with a more blaring energy and a less stupid theme. Even though the D'viants lost 128-132, I am so glad I picked that team to back. They played a roaring game with real passion and heart. They totally deserved to win and could have, if the Unicorns hadn't scored a 29 point jam just near the end, causing them to soar forward and win.
I don't care, the D'viants rock and I'll be going back on August 6 to show them my support when they go against the Boutlaws in the mini bout.
If you wanna check out the rules to derby, have a look on Facebook for the Sydney Roller Derby League or Roller Derby Rule of the Day - they have all the information you need!
This is Smack Kerouac - or possibly Hunter S. Tommy-gun - signing off.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

I'll just come right out and say it - I loved the Harry Potter books. Straight up. No denying. Loved them. I'd even go so far as to say that, without them, I wouldn't be nearly as avid a reader as I am now. I read the first one when I was ten in fifth grade and kept going from there. I was not always impressed by the films, most notably The Prisoner of Azkaban, but still, this franchise has been a part of my life for thirteen years. So, to say that watching the final film - the eighth all up - was an emotional experience would be something of an understatement.

The film opens with a montage-esque sequence of Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) finding Dumbledore's (Michael Gambon) wand from his grave, which is a scene from the end of Deathly Hallows Part One. It continues on showing Snape (Alan Rickman) presiding over a very depressing-looking Hogwarts and basically the misery in the aftermath of the last two films. If you thought, like me, that Part One was a little slow, given that it was mostly aimless searching with a sense of absolute bleakness, then Part Two makes up for that with an enormity of action - given that it is mostly based on the part of the book entitled "The Battle for Hogwarts". So, yeah, lots of wizards fighting.

Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) face their greatest battle yet with Harry even admitting at one point, "When did any of our plans actually work?" going on to say that they just "show up" and then everything goes wrong.
Despite being priorly impressed with these three as actors/friends in the previous films, I have to say that this film was their best performance yet, all of them portraying emotions that dug deep and made you feel them - tears, anger, love and all the rest.

Fiennes was just as creepy as ever as Voldemort, going for broke in all his cackling glory, owning the screen whenever he was there. A special mention, though, should go to Matthew Lewis, who played the bumbling boy-turned-man Neville Longbottom, who really brought it to this movie comedically and dramatically. Some would even go so far as to say he's the real hero of the franchise and, more especially, this film - but no judgments here.

All in all a fantastic time was had watching the final installment of a franchise that has affected so many, and I'm not afraid to say I even got teary a couple of times during the action. A great film and a fantastic final chapter. Be ye fairly warned, though, many beloved characters meet their deaths in this film. Ye have been warned. 8.5/10

Monday, July 11, 2011


The smell reached him long before he saw the bodies. A familiar smell, sickly sweet and awful, like bad eggs and old meat. He rounded the rocks and saw the creeks and stretches of blood spreading out from the butchered bodies of the dead Apaches. The man jumped down from his horse and checked the bodies. Scalped.
"Who scalps the scalpers?" the man said, scratching his growing beard.
He leaned down close to the ones behind the rocks, saw their blood-licked axes and clubs and the pummeled look of their faces.
"Good fight."
Getting up, he turned his attention to the north-east, back where the hoof-prints came from. He walked his horse up that way and saw the body of the dead Apache, shot and trampled, lying there in the sand, eyeless from vultures. A dark red bullet hole stared up at the man from the Apache's neck nape. He looked from the body to the rocks and back again.
"Good shot."
This one had not been scalped, just left alone. The man leaned in near him and checked his pockets. A couple of coins and a necklace of ears, a small bag of shot and bullets. Looking around some, the man saw the pistol over a ways.
"Must've been the only lucky sonofabitch with a pistol," he said, picking it up. "Coz none a your countrymen shot any bullets at them there rocks."
The dead Apache didn't say anything. The man leaned down again to the body and took out his knife, ran it deep along the hairline and ripped back the scalp.
"Waste not, want not," the man pocketed the scalp. "You'll fetch maybe a dollar, I reckon."
He looked up at the sun, halfway across its daily journey from day to night. It blared down, hot and unforgiving. The man licked his chapped lips, climbed on his horse and road out. Looking from the tracks leading north east to the rocky hills, he pondered on which way the American went. He sat there for some time, considering, and then headed towards the hills. It wasn't likely he had changed course now, where had he to go but straight?
It was not far until a town, just over the hills and then some, and then he'd kill the American and he could go home.

Bennet was hungry. They had eaten their last food that night and now they had nothing, and it was still some time before the next town.
"Jesus," Lester said to no one in particular. "I wish we had some a that corn bread left."
"Yeah," Bennet replied. "But we don't."
"We could hunt something?"
"Hunt what?"
"Anything!" Lester waved his arms in the air, desperation on his face. "Hell, I'd eat a coyote if I could catch one here and now."
Bennet chuckled. He turned to Kuruk, "You up for some huntin'?"
Kuruk nodded. "I'm hungry."
The three men dismounted and tied their horses to a nearby shrub. Bennet took his rifle and the other two men took their guns.
"Alright, shoot what you see, but only things with enough meat to make somethin' worthwhile," Bennet loaded his rifle. "And preferably somethin' all three of us can eat."
The two others nodded and they set about finding some rocks to hide behind. And then they waited. They waited until the sun had past the summit of the sky and the wind began to cool and shadows stretched out from odd things and leer out into the world. Coyotes began to call and the vultures circles grew sparser as they flew off to roost.
"Ah, fuck it," Bennet drew his rifle up high and cracked off an echoing shot into the sky. A large black mass fell from the sky to the earth and thudded up a great cloud of sand.
"Did you just kill a vulture?" Lester asked, looking away from his gun.
"I'm fuckin' hungry and I ain't seein' anythin' else!"
Bennet did not move.
"Well?" Lester said. "Ain't you gonna go and get it?"
"Just wait."
The rest of the vultures had flown off and away and the coyotes were silent for some time. Finally, one came out from its hiding place in the ether of the desert and sniffed around the dead vulture. Bennet eased the sights over it and fired again, the cloud of smoke climbing high into the deepening blue of the night sky. He got up from his spot behind the rocks and sauntered to where the coyote died. It was still twitching, for the shot had not killed it.
Bennet sighed, took out his knife, and slit the thing's throat. He then picked it up and took it over to a fire that Lester and Kuruk had built and began to skin and clean it.
Soon they were full with meat and ready for a long night's sleep.
"Good hunting, Bennet," Lester said, pulling his hat down over his face. "There's hope for you yet."
"Haw, haw, haw, you sonofabitch," Bennet kicked Lester lightly in the leg and he chuckled. "When we get to town I might sell you instead of them horses."
"He won't sell," Kuruk said. "Too skinny."
And the men laughed until sleep took them from it all.

Friday, July 8, 2011


As the moon rose high over them, blacking out the mountains on the horizon and splattering the sky with stars that lit the sand, Bennet and his companions set up camp. They did not speak much, only heating up their food and then going to sleep. It seemed like forever ago to Bennet since he had had a good meal at a table, a roof over his head, reading a book by the firelight. He hadn't really read a book in the year since Vera died, although now he wished he had. He had taken more to drinking after work and his poker games and falling asleep, only going out from his room to check on the money-press before passing out into the next day. All was strange to him, now, being out in the open desert with a wanderer and an Apache for company. If Vera could see him now.
And then, he slept.
His sleep was mostly dreamless. The one dream he remembered was walking home from the bar and sitting in front of the fire, reading a book, and this made him smile an unseen grin in his sleep. Somewhere in the night, a coyote found a small animal and tore it to pieces on the plain, leaving nothing of it more than a red stain and some fur.
In the morning, the three rose and packed their things, saddled their horses and rode on.
"Did you sleep alright?" Lester asked.
"Fine as ever," Bennet spat on the ground. "And yerself?"
"Fine. Kuruk?"
The Apache nodded solemnly.
Lester leaned in close to Bennet, "He ain't much of a morning person."
"That makes two of us."
Lester leaned back and laughed and Bennet stared out towards the purple-orange of the rising sun, a faint smile on his lips for a reason he couldn't recall.
It didn't take long for the fine sand to start being cratered with rocks and spiked shrubs. A thundering could be heard not too far off. Kuruk raised his hand sharply and they stayed their horses, silent. The Apache searched the horizon and saw, not too far to the north-east, a group of riders kicking up dust and heading for them.
"What is it?" Lester asked.
"Riders," Kuruk said. "Indians."
"What kind?"
"I do not know."
"We'd best hide us somewheres," Bennet said. "Because I don't intend to find out what kind a injuns they are by just standin' here like a target."
"I can not disagree with you."
They turned their horses away from the riders and kicked them at speed, heading for the big rock. Not too far off was a large boulder atop a tower of rocks which would do for cover and anyhow it was the only place around to hide, the rocky hills still being some miles off. When they reached the rocks they lashed their horses to it and steadied them, taking out and prepping their rifles and pistols, hiding the niches of the stony structure.
And then they waited, the only sound echoing from anywhere was the thunder of the riders on their horses. It wasn't too long before they heard the war cries, too. Savage wails into the sky.
"Sioux," Kuruk said. "I think. Killers."
Lester hammered back both of his pistols, let out a small curse and said a quiet prayer. Bennet leaned over into a small gap in the rock and poked through his rifle barrel. He could see them clearly, now. There were maybe a dozen of them, riding hard, painted faces and bodies, blood dried to their hands and mouth and horses. Scalps bounced at their hips, hanging from buffalo-tail belts. Most were shirtless but some had on scraps that were once the fine linens of rich men or the dusted vests of workers. Necklaces of teeth and ears hung around their necks. Though he couldn't see their eyes, he knew there would be fire in them. He stared down the sight for some time until he had his breathing right and he fired off a shot, the crack echoing into the desert nothingness. For a moment, he thought he'd missed, but then the lead Sioux's shoulder lurched back and he fell from his horse, trampled under the hooves of the many at his back. One of the riders turned back and headed away from the battle as fast as he could.
"You get one?" Lester asked.
"I did," Bennet began reloading. "But there's more. One's headin' back, likely for more."
"How far is that?"
Bennet figured for a moment.
"About three hundred yards," he said finally. "Give or take."
"Jesus. Hell of a shot."
"Yes I am."
Bennet lined up the sights again and fired off into the crowd. Another's head snapped back sickeningly and flung him from his horse, red mist lingering for a moment before disappearing. But the riders were much closer, now - within one hundred yards.
"Best you start shootin'," Bennet said. "Lest they come upon us only two down."
Lester turned around the edge of the rocks and fired off all twelve of his chambers. He hit six men, some twice and them falling over, but others riding despite their injuries, their fiery eyes clearly visible now in the full day's light.
Kuruk leaned over the rocks and took aim slowly, more carefully like Bennet, but the Sioux were only fifty yards away and he had to let the shot off sooner, striking a horse in the eye and taking it down. It fell atop its rider and slowed some others, but they were still six in number when they finally came around the rocks and swung viciously with axes and clubs at the three huddled men. Shooting close range with a rifle was useless, Bennet knew, so he took out his six-shooter and fired wildly at the men in front of him, blood raining on him from some unseen dying thing nearby him. The remaining injuns lept down from their horses and ran at the men, swinging at them and the men had to return blows. It was only five versus three now and Kuruk was handling two men easily, knocking back and dodging blows. Two more landed at Bennet who dispatched one with a shot to the gut and took to the other with his fists.
The Sioux swung wildly with his axe, slamming it, thudding, into the sand and rocks. Soon he had Bennet pinned and was smashing at his face with the butt of the axe, catching Bennet's nose and unleashing a torrent of blood over them both. Bennet's right hand struggled outward, looking for something to use as a weapon, while his left kept the warrior at bay, fending off attacks. His hand found a rock and he brough it up, swinging in a wide arc, catching the injun in the temple and spraying his blood on the rocks. The body slumped to the ground and Bennet pulled away from him. He saw that the injun wasn't dead but only stunned, his eyed blank and rolling about his head, jerking about with failed movements. Bennet brough the rock down again and the man was still.
A struggle for a fallen pistol led Lester to shoot the man atop him in the shoulder and chest, having taken a severe beating around his face and large cuts on his chest. Kuruk had also been cut on the chest and back, but had killed his two attackers with a violent fury and went about scalping them.
"What are you going to do with those?" Bennet asked, spitting blood onto the rocks and wiping some from his nose onto his sleeve.
"Sell them," Kuruk said. "Fifty cents per scalp."
"People pay top dollar for injun scalps," Lester sat up against the rocks. "Mostly so's they know that the roaming bands is at least part dead."
Bennet nodded as he took this on and they all searched the bodies for valuables.
"Come on," Bennet said after a time. "Let's get out of here."
"We should lash the horses we can round up," Lester said. "They'd sell too at market where we're going."
Bennet agreed and they set about chasing down and roping the horses into a chain. Once they had, they moved off again towards the town over the rocky hills.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


After resupplying in a nearby town, Bennet and his two companions moved out again into the desert, setting their sites on a grouping of rocky hills not further than a two days' ride. It had occured to Bennet that he did not know where he was going, but was merely going for the sake of travelling away, it seemed, from everything to his back. The man who had waylaid him had, for certain, been the catalyst that had driven him on this journey out into the desert and all the nothing that lay within it, but Bennet felt that this journey had been coming for sometime, since there was little that was tying him down to the small town he'd left with Jake all those days ago. He had his shop, to be sure, and some friendly acquaintances, but the shop could be taken over by another and he could always meet more people. Since Vera and his daughter's death, he supposed, the open road and stretching himself as far and wide as he could had always been what called to his soul.
"Where you headed, anyhow?" Lester asked. Bennet shook from his reverie and turned to the tall, thin man.
"Nowheres in particular," Bennet said. "Somewhere else."
Lester nodded for a time and then spoke. "Why's that?"
"Sometimes a man's just gotta move away from where he's at," he paused a moment. "When there ain't nothin' holdin' him there anymore."
"I s'pose I can see the truth in that, though it would also behoove a man to try and build something back up from whence he comes."
"Where I'm comin' from ain't where I come from."
Lester turned to examine this man to whom he'd become atttached; medium height, solidly built and with piercing eyes that rarely shook from the horizon.
"Where is it, then, that you come from?" Lester said.
"Oh, now, ain't that a question," Bennet spat into the sand. "I met my wife, god rest her, in Blackwater, up someways north, and moved to Galston not six months or so later. We eloped, see."
Lester nodded.
"But I come to Blackwater from my daddy's farm which was some ways West, that is to say, a small town in the middle a nowhere with fewer prospects than what I found myself in."
"It don't seem," Lester ventured, "like your prospects is much increased."
Bennet turned from the horizon and studied Lester closely.
"No," he said finally. "As of late, they do not."
"And this man," Lester pushed on, "who is pursuing you with the most murderous of intentions - you do not know him nor know what he wants?"
"I do not."
"That all seems mighty peculiar to me."
During all this, Kuruk the Apache said nothing, merely riding in silence towards the rocks on the horizon as the two white men spoke of things past.
"It is peculiar to me, also," Bennet said. "It is also peculiar that you are askin' so many questions."
"It is his way," Kuruk's voice was like a roar in the night, unexpected and powerful. "He asks questions and he talks."
At this, Lester let out a bellowing laugh. "The man speaks the truth! I do, indeed, speak much and ask many questions! Pardon me if it has offended you, but I am merely trying to get to know a man who has brought upon our company the possibility of a deadly pursuer."
"You ride with that possibility every day, riding with an Apache as you do," Bennet nodded at Kuruk. "There are those who take not as kindly to them as we do."
Kuruk grunted.
"Double the reason why," Lester continued, "that I wish to establish why we should bring more risk upon us."
Bennet sighed and, after a moment, spoke. "You know that I am a deserter of the USS Maine."
"I do."
"On my way home I encountered a gang of Mexicans who would not let me pass, saying they would kill me and some how fetch a good price for my hide and possessions."
Lester said nothing.
"So, I made a deal for my life. I said that I was a blacksmith and that I could make them fake money. I could press coins and hammer out moulds for printing bills, too. And this I did for some time until I decided I had paid my debt to them for letting me live."
"This did not end well?" Night had begun to fall and a wind kicked up sand around them. A coyote cried.
"It did not. They killed my wife and daughter in front of me, violating my young daughter until she died for her injuries. I continued to provide them with fake money because I had nothing left to lose. So, this man pursuing me, is likely doing so because of that."
Lester sat silently on his horse for many moments. Kuruk turned and looked Bennet up and down, his eyes pitying the man, nothing needing to be said.
"Well, then," Lester said. "The road calls to you."
"It does."
And then men rode off silently into the night, coyotes crying after them.

Monday, July 4, 2011


Though he was happy simply to have a horse, the man could not say that he liked this horse. It was stubborn and untrained, nothing like his old horse. He missed his old horse. He had never - not once - fantacized about shooting his old horse. This horse refused to go at the quick speeds of the old horse, sticking mostly to a slow run when it could muster itself.
"At this rate," the man said to himself, "I'll never catch up."
He pulled out his Bowie knife and stuck it in the horse's flank while yelling at it to speed up. It merely whinnied and bucked, kicking the man to the sand and roiling in its agony.
"Stupid sonofabitch!" the man yelled at the horse and pulled out his pistol and shot it in the head. A burst of red and it fell to the sand, still as a log. For a while, the man just stood there and stared at the beast. He looked around him and saw nothing.
"Well," he put his pistol away. "Shit."
He took up the important pieces from his saddle bags - his money and food and water - and started walking east. Someone would be along sooner or later, he figured, and would be kind and stupid enough to offer him help. Looking up at the sky, he revelled in the fact that it seemed to boundless and large. Everything seemed to him boundless and large on this Earth. When you stared up at the sky by day it was blue as far as forever, and by night it was black as pitch with more stars than grains of sand on the Earth. The desert itself, too, was boundless with more grains of sand than could be counted, doubling the immensity of the night by proxy. Sand that seemed to dig around into your very blood if you stayed out here long enough like the man had. Bright, lazy sand that stretched out and over the world, across the horizon and off the edge of the world and then kept going some more. He smiled at the soft, wheezing sound his feet made as they plodded along in the sand, the warmth of it all causing him to sweat.
The oceans, too, were boundless - vast and crushing. He had once been on a ship, bound for distant shores with adventure in mind, but it was not to be and they had been waylaid and he had had to kill his way out, stealing a life boat with the blood of many men sloshing around in the bottom. When on the sea it appeared, like the desert, to spill over the edge of the world and crush everything below it with its might.
Back on land, the mountains and the plains all were part of the endless vastness of everything. Each area seeming in turn to be endless while in them but small and conquerable from afar.
A soft clopping from behind him drew his mind away from thoughts off the world and a man approached him atop a horse.
"Lo there," the traveller yelled. "You lost?"
"Not so much lost," the man said, "as horseless."
"Was that yours I saw back a ways, dead in the sand?"
"It was. Died on me of exhaustion and stupidity."
"Looked to me like it'd been shot in the forehead," the traveller stared down, putting his hand on his horse's neck. "You shoot your horse?"
The man eyed the traveller, judging him. "If'n I did, what business would it be a yours?"
"Well," the traveller said, "I reckon that it would be it was your own fault your horseless and I might leave you to your plight here in the open sands."
"Would you now?"
"I reckon I would."
The man inched his hand towards his holster but the traveller had his piece already out by his thigh.
"I don't reckon that's too bright a plan, boy," the traveller said. "And for it I'll take your money."
"My money?" the man shifted his weight onto his left foot.
"Yes sir," the traveller raised his pistol, cocking it. "Or you shall surely die by my bullet."
"Well," the man bent his knee. "It doesn't look like I have a choice, do I?"
"You do not."
No one ever expects for a man to jump left instead of right. It helped that the traveller had his gun low behind the horse's head and had to raise it to try and aim at the man. By that time, though, it was over. The man had out his pistol and had levelled with the traveller's body and fired. A whump and a grunt and the traveller fell from his horse. The man walked forward but the traveller let off a cracking shot that almost hit the man in the toes and he jumped backwards, firing again at the felled man, hitting him in the arm.
"Jesus lord above!" the traveller cried, cluthing his injured arm.
The man walked forward and stood over the traveller. "This is how it was meant to be. There was never an escape for you."
"Fuck you, mister," the traveller yelled. "I hope this desert eats you alive!"
"It already has." And the man shot the traveller in the face.
While the blood seeped into the sand and the world, the man took the traveller's possessions as his own and climbed upon the horse, riding after the American.

Friday, July 1, 2011


Bennet approached the fire with a trepidatious caution. He could see two men sitting by the fire, eating or talking, giving him mostly no notice. The night was cold and he wanted to be near the warmth.
"That's far enough," a voice carried over from the fire. "Talk before I shoot ye dead and leave ye to the buzzards."
"I am cold and alone," Bennet stopped moving and stood there hugging himself. "My horse died on me and I am being pursued by a man with a powerful need to shoot me for which I cannot account."
Silence floated over them for some time. Desert wind blew sand into Bennet's boots and he shivered.
"Well come on by the fire then," the voice said. "No sense in ye freezing thirty feet out from warmth when it sounds like you got a story to tell."
Bennet surged forward and braced himself by the fire, warming his cold extremities.
"Thank ye," he said. "It was gettin' harder to walk."
"Desert nights will do that to ye."
The man who had spoken with Bennet was a tall, slim man with a lanky beard and a pock-marked face. He wore a worn hat low over his eyes, his hands working over a piece of wood with a knife, whittling some small figure or another. On the other side of the fire sat what looked to Bennet to be an Apache, but he admitted to himself that he could not rightly tell all injunes from each other. For all he knew, the man could have been a Mohawk or a Sioux. He wore his hair long and tied at the back with a strip of buffalo leather, his head bent low eating from a small bowl of beans and meat. A rich man's waistcoat bound his chest, a fob-chain linking the two sides together and he had on buffalo leather chaps over faded green trousers, store-bought at one time or another. A sheath on either hip held large Bowie knives and two gun-holsters sat behind them.
"Your injun a quick-draw?" Bennet asked.
"He ain't my injun," the man said. "He's my friend. Calls himself Kuruk."
"It means Bear," Kuruk did not look up from his meal. "My father was Bodaway. Firemaker."
"Right. And I'm Lester Simms," Lester eased his hat up from over his eyes. "Now, how's about you tell us that story about why you're so alone and running?"
"I suppose you got the right to ask."
Lester nodded. Bennet sighed and began his story, telling the two men about the USS Maine, about the Mexicans, about the counterfeit money, the death of his family and finally about the man with the gun. When his tale was done, he sat in silence as the men absorbed the tale. Kuruk had stopped eating, eyes focused on this new man with strange tales of death. The fire danced orange across their faces and the sand, sending sparks like stars up to meet their brothers and sisters in the sky. Finally, Lester spoke.
"You was gonna be stationed on the USS Maine?"
"I was."
"And you deserted?"
"I did."
Lester considered this a moment. "Not too brave."
"It was smart."
Lester laughed. "That it was. Better to be a coward for a day and continue living than a hero for the same day and die."
"Some might consider it better to be a hero forever than a coward til you die," Bennet said. He shifted, cooler sand moving up as the warm sand blew away. "But I figure I like your position better."
"Figured you might."
Lester paused a moment.
"And this man," he asked. "With the gun. You don't know who he is?"
"No, sir."
"No thoughts on who he might be?"
"Well," Bennet considered this a moment. "At first, I thought he might be some kind of lawman, but in general lawmen don't open fire on ye without tellin' ye first that they's there. Some kind of honour in the way they do things."
Lester nodded.
"But this man," Bennet continued, "baited a trap with the bodies of dead men and opened fire on us unsuspectin'. Could be Pinkertons if it ain't the Marshalls, but I ain't sure. Could be a mercenary a some kind, though I could not figure who would have hired him and why for to come after me."
"Perhaps a man not too keen on your money business?" Lester offered.
"Or a man wanting to take it over," Kuruk offered from his place further from the fire.
"Thems is all options worth thinkin' over," Bennet said. "But until I find out, they's only unfounded figurins."
"You should face him," the Apache said. "Like a man."
Bennet turned and looked at the brooding native. "How could I face down a man I could not see?"
"Now you are ahead of him," Kuruk said. "You can wait. Face him down when he comes this way."
"This man is a better shot than I am. He will see me from many miles off and take me down before I have a chance to sight my weapon."
Kuruk grunted, annoyed. "You are just a coward."
"We just got done establishing he is," Lester laughed. "Now come on, let's get some sleep and hope this man don't happen upon us in the night."

As it happened, the man did not find them that night. They awoke to a new day, the sun beating down as uncovered and unholy hot as ever, sitting shining and powerful in the endless blue that stretched over the desert and to the end of the earth. Vultures circled on the horizon back the way Bennet had come. They had found the Mexicans and would eat well for days. It was then that Bennet thought of Jake, who was also likely having his eyes plucked and flesh picked by carrion birds of all colours and sizes, leaving him to be more dust on the endless mesa.
"Come on," Lester said. "You can ride double with Kuruk until we find some traders or a town and get ye a new horse."
Kuruk nodded at Bennet and patted the edge of saddle behind him, helping Bennet up.
"Hold on tight," Kuruk said. "We ride fast."
Bennet wrapped his arms around the musuclar Apache, his skin smooth and sun-worn. The Apache let out a whistle and the horses were off, bounding through the sand, racing time itself. But behind them, coming up closer, creeping like death, was the man with the gun.